By Wanda Praamsma, Communications Officer
Professor Susan Cole says she’s always been internationally inclined since her first school trip to Japan at age 15. She loves to travel, enjoys bringing foreign students and postdoctoral fellows into her cancer research lab, and is involved in a handful of research collaborations with universities and clinics around the world.
“The beauty of biomedical science is that it is international,” says Dr. Cole, who teaches in the departments of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, and Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, and is a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Cancer Biology and Bracken Chair in Genetics & Molecular Medicine. “Over the years, it’s been wonderful to have many different countries represented in the lab and see the connections and collaborations that emerge from the relationships.”
On top of working on projects with researchers in Australia, Korea, France and the U.S., Dr. Cole has recently been making more connections with scholars in China, and in the fall, she was appointed an honorary professor at Jinan University in Guangzhou, China’s third-largest city. China is working hard to expand its reach in the fields of biomedical and clinical sciences and Dr. Cole’s appointment is part of a push to draw more foreign-trained scientists to China to help further its research in these fields.
“I’m really honoured by the appointment,” says Dr. Cole, who was deputy provost at Queen’s between 2010 and 2012. “I feel a commitment to help in some way, as I believe what the Chinese government and its universities and hospitals are doing – investing in research on a large scale – is really good for the future of science. Their labs are top of the line, and it’s inspiring to see how fast they are working.”
Dr. Cole’s primary research focuses on drug sensitivity and why certain tumour cells are resistant to drugs. Her team discovered a new protein – MRP1 – that essentially acts as a drug pump, pumping drugs out of cells so they don’t die. The protein is relevant to certain cancers, particularly a common childhood cancer, neuroblastoma, which develops in the adrenal glands.
The research has helped her form numerous partnerships internationally, including a 20-year relationship with the Children’s Cancer Institute in Sydney, Australia. Dr. Cole works on the basic biology, while the institute’s scientists perform the translational and clinical work. The relationship is beneficial to both sides, as Dr. Cole gains access to more graduate students and funding, something she hopes will also increase with her work in China.